Grasshopper Plagues

 What can we learn from the Grasshopper Plagues?

Below are thirty comments written by the Ag History Students who designed this web site. These are personal opinions only, and you may or may not agree with some of them. Their purpose is to cause us to think about what we can learn from the grasshopper plagues of the 1870's. 


Basically the grasshopper plagues should tell us that we would never be prepared for everything. The only way that we can survive is as a community. Everyone should help the less fortunate out in times of need or disaster, to keep from another destructive amount of destitution on anyone. DP


We have been told that there was little or no chance that the Grasshopper Plagues would ever happen again. But we learned that there are locust plagues in Africa today. So even if the grasshoppers don't come back to this continent there is always a chance of something that could cause a disaster such as the grasshoppers did. DP


In the case of the Grasshopper Plagues, the government decided to give out bounties to those who captured the grasshoppers and their eggs. This was to be paid ½ by the state and ½ by the county. This left many of the states and counties bankrupt and lacking funds to pay the collectors. I feel the government should set back a disaster fund that would be primarily used for instances such as these. DP


It has been theorized that some bird species species were almost exterminated by over hunting and this may have contributed to the overgrowth of the grasshoppers. This is an important lesson if there is some truth to this, for the world resides in equilibrium and if that is disturbed excessively then catastrophes will occur. DP


Nowadays with the large amounts of technology and knowledge of chemicals, I feel that there can be a pesticide produced that will control the problem without hurting production. Many people are opposed to pesticides, but do not understand that if these people of the 1870's had these pesticides it would have saved farms and even lives. DP


We should learn from the settlers and the Indians of that time. While they were starving to death they learned that the grasshoppers were edible. This brought on innovations that kept many of the settlers alive long enough for the plagues to end. DP


I feel the government should have learned that their intervention into this problem was prolonged to the point of destitution on the settlers. Excessive poverty was brought on them by the grasshoppers and some people even starved to death. The government should intervene much earlier and help those in need to prevent any such casualties. DP


Some of the counties sustained damages of over 2 million dollars in grain loss alone, however, people still endured. I think that if we had similar plagues today that suffering would be greater due to the huge population, and lack of the ability to cope. AR


Settlers made some interesting machinery to gather the insects, if the plagues were as huge as they claim then I wonder if today we could fight them with pesticides or gathering equipment. AR


Although farmers are noted for their ingenuity, I think that the gathering equipment that was designed shows farmers never gave up even when they knew that their was no hope to save crops. AR


It was reported that some looting was done, but not one large incident of death by looters was reported in Missouri. I think that if the plagues came back many people would be hurt by others looting. AR


I read about many head of livestock being run out, or dying in many parts of Missouri. Even though the farmers lost everything, including the cows they milked they stayed. The resilience of the people who stayed was amazing. AR


Crop insurance is readily available today, and government programs assure prices and assistance in case of emergencies. The government didn't have programs like this the 1800's. I think that some of the programs we have today can be attributed to disasters like this. AR


I think the fact that the grasshoppers were able to slow the movement of the mighty steam locomotives gives us a good idea of just how much trouble the grasshoppers caused the settlers. The picture of the grasshopper holding up the train, while it is a big exaggeration, in a way is true. We all can laugh at that picture now but I am sure the men on the railroad did not laugh. BE


They said the grasshoppers were attracted to the tracks because of the heat they produced in the morning. Is it possible that if the grasshoppers came back today they would be attracted to everything that can absorb heat? Just think about how much fun it would be driving our vehicles around. BE


We have several accounts of grasshoppers here in Missouri. People talked about them blocking the sun and creating a haze over the sky. I cannot even imagine that many grasshoppers blocking the sun. Some settlers thought that these plagues were like the ones in the Bible. If they came today would we think the same thing? BE


Some settlers found that eating grasshoppers were the only way to survive. They would cook them many ways to dilute the taste of the grasshopper. Indians had been eating grasshoppers for years but the settlers had not and now they had to. This is why many died; they could not bring themselves to eat a pest that had caused them so much hardship. BE


It is ironic to me that some of the people in the city found the grasshopper to be a delicacy. I believe that if they had gone through what the settlers went through they would not like the grasshoppers so much. That is just how the world turns, one man hates it and other man loves it. BE


People who are against the use of pesticides and insecticides need to know what can happen. I think that they should be aware of the plagues and just how much heartache they can bring. These chemicals serve a purpose for the better of our population. I believe that if people are against chemicals being used they should come up with something better, which is just as productive and efficient. BE


If similar circumstances were to happen today, would there be the support from neighbors for the survival of the livestock? Would neighboring counties and states allow farmers to move their animals away from affected areas without objections? JP


Imagining the great damage that was caused during the locust plagues and the stress that was put on the families is hard enough for people today to understand. However, those settlers that survived had to put out their second crops as the last hope for the survival of their families and their livestock. JP


The state and local governments should add a disaster aid to each divisions budget to help out those farmers affected by these circumstances, like plagues, diseases, and drought. JP


Would the use of pesticides today be enough to battle against the locusts or should new strains be established to provide relief? If the settlers of the 1870's had the use of such agents as pesticides instead of coal-oil and tar would this plague be just a portion of a script from Steven Spielberg's collection. JP


If certain disasters were to happen today would the government step in time to stop some of the destruction that we saw back in the 1870's? Would this relief come in time to stop the destruction of crops that was produced back during the locusts plagues or would the price of certain foods rise to new all time highs? JP


Farmers today should learn from these circumstances and provide the opportunity for other sources of income in their families. Whether this mean that one parent works off the farm or investments outside the agricultural field in their communities. JP


The regulation of exports/imports should be monitored during these times to increase the money provided for aid and supplement for those farmers that are willing to continue on through the hard times. Programs should be put in place and different associations should be established and properly represented in both the local and national government. JP


Game management practices today can play a big role in balancing the ecosystem. We don't know what caused the sudden overabundance of locusts back in the 1870's, but with the type of management practices that we have today this plague could be regulated properly and efficiently to stop some of the destruction that would be caused. JP


With such practices involved in plant genetics as gene transfer new varieties of certain crops could be established to be non-appealing to certain insects such as locusts, grasshoppers, bots and weevils. Allowing time for the management practices and the aid to be installed to provide relief. JP


If a plague were to occur today would everyone have enough food to survive? I believe that all of us can learn something from the past. We should never think that something like the plagues of the 1880's would never happen again. Since less than 10% of our population are farmers I believe that we could really be in trouble without the proper planning. BE

Visit these pages to learn more about the Grasshopper Plagues: 

Rocky Mountain Locust Natural History
Grasshopper Gathering Equipment
Actual Missouri Accounts
Grasshoppers and a Sense of Humor
Destitute Settlers
Were they all bad?
Grasshoppers and Trains
Do we still have Grasshopper Plagues?
Missouri Legislation
What can we learn from the Grasshopper Plagues?
Damage Estimates and Restitution
Grasshopper Plague links

This page was designed and is maintained by Agricultural History Students and Lyndon N. Irwin.